Cato College of Education professor Heather Coffey has been selected by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors for a 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching. Established by the board in 1993 to highlight the importance of teaching, the awards recognize the extraordinary contributions of faculty members across the UNC System.
Coffey is a professor in the Department of Middle, Secondary and K-12 Education and a mentor to future teachers. She encourages a social justice mindset and gets to know her students so they are comfortable sharing concerns about teaching in environments that do not mirror their own experiences.
“The crux of my teaching philosophy requires that I create a classroom space where students feel that they are heard and respected and are able to share their honest opinions and questions without being judged or criticized,” Coffey said. “Supporting the needs of pre-service and practicing teachers of diverse students has not only become my job, it has become my passion. I feel an immense sense of responsibility both to the teacher candidates with whom I work and to the P-12 students they will eventually teach.”
Coffey helped develop the interdisciplinary Civic Minor in Urban Youth and Communities as well as the University’s plan to help undergraduate students thrive, Prospect for Success. A former middle and high school educator, Coffey designed and directs the new model for the Teaching Fellows program and is the director of the UNC Charlotte Writing Project, part of the National Writing Project.
“Dr. Coffey was an amazing mentor who I could go to for anything. She inspired me to challenge myself and influence my students,” said Rachel Jeska, a senior studying middle grades education.
Coffey is among 17 outstanding faculty members to receive the 2021 UNC BOG Awards for Excellence in Teaching. The recipients, who represent all 16 of North Carolina’s public universities and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, were nominated by special committees at each institution and selected by the Board of Governors Committee on Educational Planning, Policies and Programs.
“I’m proud today to recognize the diligent work of our faculty members,” said Randy Ramsey, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors. “These professors are a shining example of the world-class education and public service that is provided across our System every day. I offer sincerest gratitude and congratulations to our award winners.”
Coffey will receive a commemorative bronze medallion at an upcoming commencement ceremony and a $12,500 cash prize. Last September, she was named the winner of the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence.
“These award recipients are among the finest faculty our state has to offer,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “They provide another reminder of the high-quality education that our students receive each day across the UNC System.”